The question about what signals feminism, sartorially, is something that’s at the heart of IPF’s “mission” and something that’s been discussed a good deal here (see, for instance, A-Dub’s post on the gendered assumptions associated with apparel). While the academic world might sometime treat the question of fashion as frivolous and unimportant, clothing is still often intimately associated with who “counts” as appropriately feminist, inside and outside the academy. Like Anne noted today, those of us who dress in a relatively conventional approximation of feminine can sometimes feel a slight disconnect between our personal values and beliefs and the way these are perceived by others. But, as A-Dubs notes, there’s something to be said for upending these assumptions.
For me, this vexed question of apparel gets at the heart of my early associations with feminism. Like a number of others (LHdM and Cynthia, for instance), I was raised by parents who would very much have classified themselves as feminists. However, what I named as “Feminism-with-a-capital-F” was characterized my mom and her friends at the time and their investment in white, middle-class, second wave feminism — particularly their adoption of the New Age-y rhetoric of goddess-related ritual and the rejection of “The Beauty Myth” (my sister rather hilariously once made a bathing suit for the naked lady (or sort of) on the cover of Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch). This seemed VERY unappealing to the young E-Jo who, even then, was disinterested in this level of earnestness. And if dressing in my mom’s acid-wash denim jumpsuit (well after the height of acid wash’s popularity) was what being a feminist looked like, even if I thought that equality between genders was self-evident and was happy to (unconsciously) reap the benefits gained by earlier generations of tireless crusaders, I was clearly NOT a feminist. It was only once I got to university and was made to read feminist and critical theory in a bunch of different classes that I began to realize that there existed a broader spectrum of feminisms and that this was about larger, systemic inequalities linked to all sorts of other things (I remember reading Gayle Rubin’s “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex” as a key moment).
Thus, despite the seeming frivolity of things like style blogs, I think there’s something quietly radical about what we’ve all embarked on here in our various ways: demonstrating the different ways of dressing like a feminist. While many of the privileges that underwrote my mom’s versions of feminism are replicated in the blog world (and the rest of the world, generally) and could stand to be more clearly interrogated, there’s a fantastic level of discussion about what style means and allows. Further, interactions with students (female and otherwise) act as a continual reminder of the work that needs to be done and, while I’m not always as up front about my feminism with them as others, I like to think that my clothes are performing an important pedagogical interruption to their assumptions about “what a feminist looks like.”
Tunic: Old Navy
Pants and belt: NY & Co.
Blue flats: Joe
Also, I wore pants and taught Virginia Woolf today. A reminder that so much of what both my students and I take for granted in our everyday lives is the direct result of feminist cultural and political action.